Panorama on subletting
04/05/2011 11:12 am
It’s good to see the issue of unlawful subletting of social housing getting some wider media coverage, with the BBC’s Panorama show looking at the issue tonight. There always seem to be a lot of unanswered questions around the subject. Lots of claims have been made about the number of homes that are unlawfully sublet, often placed alongside an equally huge figure for the number of people on housing waiting lists.
But as IH readers will know, waiting list figures aren’t always as straightforward as they seem, and you also have to wonder who the ‘unlawful’ tenants are. People who are on the waiting list anyway? People who have genuine need of social housing? And what happens to them if their home is recovered?
That isn’t to say subletting isn’t a problem, clearly homes should be allocated to people in need through the proper channels. But it isn’t as straightforward an issue as the statistics would sometimes suggest.
Another issue that tends to crop up around subletting is how hard it is to gather evidence and recover properties. Put too many barriers in place and landlords may not have the resources to do the work, but if there aren’t enough safeguards then the rights of tenants could be compromised.
It’ll be interesting to see which of these issues are tackled by Panorama, and whether the programme comes up with any answers.
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04/05/2011 12:25 pm
According to Panorama a serving police office is subletting his council flat (£91 pw) for £450 pw plus £200 deposit. The flat is near Butler's Wharf close to Tower Bridge in London.
I gather this and other issues are on tonight's programme.
04/05/2011 12:29 pm
From a BBC NEWS website article earlier --
"With subletting adding to a growing social housing problem and demand outstripping supply, Portsmouth Council is informing new inquirers and many on its waiting list they are unlikely to be offered council accommodation.
"Most people on a council waiting list are never, ever going to get offers of council accommodation," said Pete Diamond, a housing officer with Portsmouth Council.
"I just think the fairest way of doing it is just to be honest and just say to people, 'look, you may have a housing need, you may have all this situation going on but we still can't help you'," Mr Diamond continued. "
04/05/2011 2:47 pm
For sake of debate - if we are to embrace Conservatism to the highest and let the market rule everything, what then is wrong with sub letting.
If a person has the aptitude to make money for minimal outlay by using assets that they have access to in order to meet a need from which they can derive a profit, why should they not be allowed to do so.
Indeed, surely red-tape removal should be used to make sure that such new markets can be exploited to the full in the same way as other exploitation of public funds and assets are or are proposed to be.
04/05/2011 3:15 pm
You might be onto something there PSR...
04/05/2011 4:17 pm
It's interesting to see PSR put his location as "Middle Earth" as his Utopian Lefty views are about as believable or actionable as Tolkien's fairy tale world from which he takes his inspiration.
The British like to see a level playing field in things. The way social housing is currently allocated (by State employed bureauocrats using spurious "needs" based criteria that reward fecklessness, irresponsibility and often self created "deprivation") is generally loathed by the British public. We understand and welcome the concept of competing with others in the free market and paying a market price. Which is why home ownership (at around 70% of all tenure) is the single most popular form of housing. We even understand putting our name down on a list and waiting our turn.
However what we really loathe is somebody getting something for nothing which they patently do not deserve to get ahead of someone else who perhaps has done something to deserve getting it.
Which is why sub-letting of social lets is so universally despised. A system gamer convinces a faceless bureauocrat to let them have a State subsidised property and then lets it out for a profit. It would be altogether fairer to have that property for sale or rent on the open market so that everyone could have a fair crack of the whip at living in it. Rather than just a chosen few who know how to play the system having such an opportunity. No wonder social housing has become so universally despised and discredited in the mind of the public. Programmes like this tell us exactly what we suspect is going on. The allocation system is rotten to the core.
04/05/2011 4:27 pm
Apoica - how do you disbelieve a person's view? I can understand disagreement or even exhasparation, but disbelief seems a little accusatory.
As for the universal despisal of social housing - I'm sure (without being specific) there are ancestors of mine who were perfectly nice, yet 'universally despised' as a result of perpetual propaganda that they be so. In the case of social housing, 30-years of underfunding and deliberate harm has severely damaged the stock and the reputation - but it is still there and the concept still valued by many. The haters of social housing and the success it once was have celebrated it's death many times - yet still it breaths. How galling for you Apoica.
Yes, subletting, fraud, tax evasion, all amount to the same thing and are wrong; but if planned social environments are so wrong how come places like Welwyn Garden City are so right?
04/05/2011 5:17 pm
Apoica (or lets call him ILAG his old pseudonym) has a hatred of social housing per se, but most notably (a) its level in Islington and (b) the needs-based allocation system of social housing.
Interestingly, on (a) he chooses to live there and the irony of that I find most amusing as surely this disciple of the great God of choice can simply move.
Yet its (b) that really riles him (and the many others who collectively used ILAG as their name on here.)
Its faceless bureaucrats rewarding the feckless he oft proclaims and wants to return to pre 1970 allocation systems. What he fails to mention of course is that housing allocation is protecte and works according to the law and not faceless bureauocrats.
Most interetsingly he wants the highly subjective allocation of social housing by individuals working to no guidelines other than whatever face fits (or more likey by how big their brown paper parcel is)
finally i do agree that the public does get angry when people get something for nothing in these ways - though im pretty sure bankers and their bonuses and MPs and their duck moats are much more universally despised than the social tenant
04/05/2011 5:27 pm
My memory of ILAG was that he was only anti Social Housing because, like me, he could not access it. Social Housing was his housing of first choice, his expressions were more from the view of those he saw getting what he could not and the failure to understand that arguing for even more restrictions on supply and affordability were not a solution; indeed the opposite was the solution required.
If the new Avatar is the same person then it is not a reason to disgard the view given. The view being wrong would be a reason, but then there in is debate.
P.S. I still like cats.
04/05/2011 8:54 pm
I know not of whom you speak nonny. But I do like cats as well PSR!
Re social housing allocation, I am of the same opinion as Michael Collins in The Great Estate and his analysis of the impact of the 1977 Homeless Persons Act is correct. It destroyed social housing as a tenure of choice and made it the residual tenure of last resort that we see today. The guidelines for merit based allocation were perfectly clear. They involved a local connection (Sons and Daughters etc) and they involved being in work. So that the tenant could support themselves and their family (if present) without recourse to the State.
Today, we now see the polar opposite of the practises that defined the Golden Age of Council Housing. No local connection (straight off the boat is fine and actually preferred in many Looney Left areas) and - of course - benefit cases only. We now have a form of RSL - the commerical HC funded HA - whose entire business model is predicated on warehousing HB cases. This seemingly limitless guaranteed revenue stream from the State assures the corporate bankers who co-fund their developments of a safe bet. Social housing has become the tenure of last resort because of all of the above. Secure tenancies - introduced by Thatcher in the 1980 Housing Act - replaced the old 28 day notice to quit LA tenancy and these, combined with a supine judiciairy who also regard social housing as the tenure of last resort and refuse to evict the insufferable, were the final nail in the coffin.
So in order to restore social housing to it's pre 77 condition:
i) Scrap "needs" based allocation and return to the merit system. Priority to those in work and so can pay their rent without recourse to the State. And no, subsequently loosing your job would not result in eviction. A work history, however, would be required in order to qualify. As would a genuine local connection going back 15 years or so. Recent immigrants would not qualify for social housing full stop.
ii) Scrap the 1980 Secure Tenancy. All social tenancies to be the old rolling 28 day notice to quit LA tenancy or AST. No requirement for costly ASB court cases that do not succeed due to the supine judiciary. Result will be removal of troublemakers (who are then deemed intentionally homeless with no obligation on the LA to re-house) and decent neighbours.
iii) Full restoration of the RTB discounts pre-Prescott 2005 cap in order to stimulate the wealth creation engine that was RTB. Described by some as the single largest transfer of wealth from the rich (the State) to the poor (the tenant) in history and an engine of social mobility.
iv) When i), ii) and iii) are in place we then use the receipts from iii) to build more social housing allocated according to i) and policed according to ii).
Inside Housing staff post
05/05/2011 12:58 pm
Going back to my original point (I might as well, if no one else is going to), I don’t really think Panorama managed to answer many of the questions around subletting. The programme was interesting – the buying tenancies scam, in particular, was a new one for me – but concentrated on highlighting a few individual cases of housing need/fraud rather than looking at the bigger issues.
I’m still unclear what the scale of the problem is, and how much impact it would really have if a significant proportion of sublet properties could be brought back into the use for which they were intended. My suspicion is that subletting is a bit of a diversion from the main problem of a lack of affordable housing (by which I mean housing people can afford, rather than any other definition of affordable). Back in 2009, then housing minister John Healey said he wanted to recover 5,000 to 10,000 homes over two years. That seemed very ambitious, and even it if was met it would still be a pretty small fraction of the homes we need.
05/05/2011 1:44 pm
Sorry Tom if you feel your point is being ignored, but are you trully so niave to not expect the BBC to trot out 'facts' to support their current controlling political masters.
The demonisation of tenants, the poor, and anyone else who needs to be blamed for the failure of consumerism is both in blatent and subtle forms. Panarama ceased to be a punchy exposition of truth as soon as it's Granada competition was killed off by Maggie's privatisation of the airwaves and deregulation of broadcasting, both in the name of competition and both contributing to the dumbing down of TV to the Murdoch-mix of soap and propaganda.
If you are looking to the television for complete argument and whole facts then you may as well remove the plug.
In the absence of mass-media independence it falls on minority publications, like IH, to be brave and challenge the pressure to conform to the central dictations. (Which, IMHO you achieve more often than not giving consideration to the commercial pressures that must also factor!)
05/05/2011 3:01 pm
I thought you didn't watch it
05/05/2011 3:30 pm
I've never been to Spain either, but I know it to be full of English tourists.
05/05/2011 4:15 pm
LOL.....it is true! panorama is the televisual equivalent of the Daily Mail or Daily Express and they do tend to present rather one-sided sensationalist stories!
I suspect that even if a large number of sublet properties were brought back into what could only be described as 'proper' use, there would still be a great many more people needing them than there would be available properties.
Surely subletting is a symptom (one of many), rather than a problem: the problem is that social housing is so desirable to those who either are on low income or on benefit, that, once the property is secured (after what could be a protracted wait), the desire to hold on to it, even though your circumstances may have changed or you may no longer need it is such that some will sublet rather than let it go! Tackle the problem, not the symptom...and whilst this may take a generation, a great deal of building and a change of attitude about property as an investment it it surely the only way to rebalance things.
In my experience, whilst a HO can often suspect a property to be sublet, it can be quite a challenge to prove it. These seems at odds with the way other social systems such as bvenefits claims work, where proving your income, identity and shoe size seem to be a fraustrating but neccessary part of the process, but yet we let homes, often for life on the basis of a form, visit and maybe some ID at the sign-up!
05/05/2011 4:19 pm
You are turning into Mary Whitehouse PSR making assumptions about programmes you've not watched...
I've not watched it either maybe we'd better fire up the iPlayer and comment tomorrow...
Inside Housing staff post
05/05/2011 4:42 pm
I prefer optimistic to naive, but either way it appears I was misguided in expected something a little more insightful from the BBC. It would have been good if it had looked at what constitutes a waiting list, or the likely impact of the current housing reforms, but there you go. If anyone is after a good, if slightly romanticised, overview of how council housing got where it is today then I think the Great Estate is being repeated tonight.
PS. Just googled Apoica, it says it is a nocturnal wasp. Is that right?
05/05/2011 4:59 pm
Optimism is a good trait Tom. I feel the same when I look at the schedules wondering if there will be anything worth watching.
Melvin - if I've turned into MW, does that mean I've died?
Nonny - yes this does rather cut against the rat infested slum dwelling image that the Daily Mailers would insist the undesirable social housing is - excellent point and one that should be rammed into the faces of the posters who insist on telling us that social housing is bad and undesirable.
Meanwhile, that reminds me. Your googling is correct Tom!
05/05/2011 6:34 pm
A nocturnal social wasp to be precise. When attacking prey, Apoica release a drop of venom from their stings, which in turn attracts any nearby wasps to attack...
05/05/2011 6:39 pm
I like the way they presented the Local Authority of the 9 person overcrowding in such a poor light "how could this be allowed to happen", "this isnt what social housing was intended to be like".
Yet there was no mention of the tenants social and moral responsibility, just keep having children knowing the state cant provide for her and complain when it cant.
06/05/2011 8:43 am
I watched most of 'Great Estate' last night. They seemed to think the demise of the Council Estate was when they let the unemployed in and stopped vetting tenants but ludged them on their 'needs'.
PSRinheavenwithMary: I've not got on the iPlayer yet so still cannot comment on Panorama...You?